However much society lauds motherhood, there's a serious problem in the way it treats mothers' bodies.
Tanis Jex-Blake, a 33-year-old mother of five from Edmonton, Alberta, learned this firsthand when she hit the beach in a hot pink bikini last week. According to Jex-Blake, a group of other beach-goers were so "grossed out" by her post-baby tummy that they pointed and laughed, at one point even pretending to kick her.
Image Credit: Tanis Jex-Blake via Facebook
Their actions were insensitive, to say the least. To make matters even more upsetting, this was reportedly the first time Jex-Blake had donned a bikini in public in 13 years.
Not content to let the incident slide, Jex-Blake wrote an impassioned open letter to the trio on Facebook, posted along with a picture of her stomach. The post clearly struck a nerve: After being picked up by a local radio station, the photo has gained over 1 million likes (and rising) in a matter of days.
The best line? "I'm NOT sorry that my body has housed, grown, protected, birthed and nurtured FIVE fabulous, healthy, intelligent and wonderful human beings."
Image Credit: Facebook
Jex-Blake's message has already prompted thousands of supportive comments, with many women praising her "tiger stripes" and others posting pictures of their own post-baby stomachs in solidarity.
Image Credit (all): Facebook
Jex-Blake's story has likely resonated with so many because talk of how pregnancy "ruins" women's bodies is one of the most insidious forms of body shaming. Instead of celebrating the incredible act of nurturing another human being, discussion about pregnancy's outcomes too often turns to stretch marks and weight gain. One Facebook user's comment summed the situation up perfectly: "Between people's reactions to stretch marks and breast feeding I wonder when society decided it was shameful to be a mother."
Tabloids and women's magazines certainly aren't helping, as evidenced by their consistent focus on how quickly women can "get back" their pre-baby shape. Redbook Editor-in-Chief Jill Herzig actually admitted as much last year in the Huffington Post:
How did we get to this ridiculous place, where losing the baby weight is a competitive sport followed by millions? Magazines certainly haven't helped, with their covers of celebrities in bikinis, all smiles and hipbones, showing off how thin they've gotten just a few months — or even weeks — after giving birth. As the editor of Redbook, I'll admit I've sometimes been part of the problem.
Even companies that cater directly to pregnant women are guilty of portraying their customers' bodies in a negative light. Take this shirt from maternity-wear shop A Pea In the Pod, which equates being pregnant with being fat (and implies that being fat is bad):
Image Credit: Mommyish
Bodies are unique, and women should feel comfortable to do whatever is best for their health and well-being after giving birth — not pressured to fit some subjective beauty ideal. Instead of focusing on how to get that pre-baby look back, we should teaching people that pregnancy-related changes are just that: changes, not flaws. Besides, most women are probably more concerned with taking care of their babies than erasing all evidence that they created them in the first place.
Jex-Blake's letter has been an inspiration to many, but the story gets even better. An Edmonton news station reported that Jex-Blake plans to hold a "post-baby bikini sit-in" along with other local mothers, "in efforts to encourage moms to be proud of their bodies." As they should be.